Rocking My Crown: Highs and Lows of Covering My Hair
I walk around in this world with a constant awareness of who I am as a married Jewish woman – off limits to other intimate relationships.
The morning after my wedding, I woke up in the hotel suite in Jerusalem and was getting ready to go down for the gourmet honeymoon breakfast with my husband of a few hours. Before heading out the door, I paused, realizing I had forgotten something. I ran back to my suitcase to choose a scarf from my bag, one that matched perfectly with my outfit. I looked into the mirror, and without any skill or experience (read: I had no clue what I was doing!), I tied up and covered my long brown hair for the first time in my life. And when I walked out of the hotel room door that morning, it was the very first time the world would not see my hair.
Since that day 18 years ago, only my husband and children have seen me with my hair uncovered. Looking back now, I smile at my innocence. I was barely 20 years old. So idealistic. So pure. I was so excited for this new look and the status that came along with it. The status of being an Orthodox Jewish married woman. I couldn’t wait for all the accessorizing, and to use my creativity and artistic flair to do this mitzvah. So many choices, so many colors... This is going to be great fun! I thought. I was living in Israel at the time, and this was the norm in my circles. You get married – you cover your hair. So when in Rome...and I just jumped in.
Fast forward 18 years. I am still covering my hair. The excitement has waxed and waned over the years; I’ve gone through many stages and phases in my connection to this observance. I won’t lie and say it has always been a breeze. There have been tears. I’ve had to search and find meaning for myself within this observance after the initial excitement wore off. I’ve had to make this something that I am proud to keep doing. Every. Single. Day. Even when I don’t feel like it, or when it feels too hot to put something on my head.
I choose to keep doing this, not out of rote but out of choice. And I still choose to uphold this tradition just like my great grandmothers did in Europe until they were taken to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Just like my husband’s grandmothers and great grandmothers did in North Africa. And just like I imagine the Jewish matriarchs did in Israel thousands of years ago. I choose to carry on the tradition.
Eve Levy. Yes she is wearing a wig.
Jewish observances should make your heart sing. This goes for any mitzvah. They are meant to be used as ways for connecting us with our Creator. A mitzvah is precious, like a diamond. Neither one should feel heavy or burdensome. A mitzvah should ideally feel uplifting. If it doesn’t, that could be a sign that something needs readjusting. You may need to change how you are doing the mitzvah. Relearn the meaning behind the particular mitzvah, find some fresh inspiration, get advice from a mentor, figure out how to make it work for you in a way that makes you happy. God wants us to serve Him with joy. He wants our hearts to sing.
So why do Jewish women cover their hair?
If you would ask this question to five different women, you might get five different answers. One woman might answer that she is keeping her hair exclusively for her husband. One woman might answer she does it because her mother did it. One woman might say that for her it is connected to the laws of modesty. For some, it is logical; for others, it’s emotional.
I’d like to share with you some ideas that resonated with me.
The Talmud teaches that God braided Eve’s hair before her wedding to Adam. It highlights the power of hair. Hair is a big part of our beauty as women. Hair may seem so insignificant, not a vital part of our bodies. But interestingly enough, it grows opposite the most important part of oneself – the brain. Even our body hair grows opposite places of power – under our arms, which are the vehicles of action in the world, and on our reproductive parts, which are the place of utmost creation and creativity.
In our society, a ring on a finger indicates marriage. Every society has different norms. Historically, women wore hair coverings, Jews and non-Jews. Gloves and bonnets were a symbol of society. Status. Respect. Dignity. The queen of England always wears a hat or crown on her head when in public till this day.
Where there is more spiritual voltage, you need more spiritual protection.
There are deep Kabbalistic teachings that talk about the powerful aura that emanates from the head of a person. The Talmud tells us how an angel teaches the entire Torah to a baby in utero. This light in the womb shines from above the head, and it stays lit for the entire life of the person.
When a woman gets married, her aura changes. This special aura now becomes more open and vulnerable to negative external forces. Covering her head acts as a protection to herself. A marriage and an intimate relationship have so much potential. There is so much voltage, so to speak. Where there is more spiritual voltage, you need more spiritual protection.
Some may not even realize that I always have my head covered. To some, I might look very natural sporting a wig or a headband fall. People may not know it, but I always know that I am covering my hair. As comfortable as wigs can be these days, you still feel like you’re covering your head. And that’s important. I walk around in this world with a constant awareness of who I am as a Jewish married woman – off limits to other intimate relationships. A certain barrier separates me from other men. I personally feel a particular containment and centering when my head is covered.
As I get dressed each morning, with my unique style and flair, I take a moment to pause in front of the mirror. I look myself over and I ask myself: am I representing my true self? Do I look dignified? Do I represent the daughter of the King? With this final touch before I start my day as a busy working mom, I cover my hair.
Now, I am ready. I do feel like a princess, being crowned with royalty. Ready to represent myself to the world. Ready to sanctify God’s name as best as I can.
This is my choice. This is my tradition. I am honored to uphold this and rock my crown.